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Shanghai’s water towns: A photo journal

Arriving at one of Shanghai’s water towns feels like stepping onto the set of an Ang Lee movie. Unchanged, ancient and infinitely tranquil, their meandering canals and rivers create a maze worth getting lost in.

Take a boat ride along the sparkling water and a dream-like journey unfolds – passing peaceful gardens, long-serving bridges, colourful craft shops, while food vendors dish up local specialities such as mouthwatering pork wrapped in bamboo leaves.

In this photo journal, Booking.com photographers take us on a journey through these preserved plots of Chinese history.

Restaurants and local craft shops line the canalside

Restaurants and local craft shops line the canalside

A popular local bar in Xitang

A popular local bar in Xitang

Tranquil tea houses can be found dotted along the river

Tranquil tea houses can be found dotted along the river

This local restaurant bears the words ‘happy to be drunk’, in Chinese calligraphy

This local restaurant bears the words ‘happy to be drunk’, in Chinese calligraphy

A waterside tea house

A waterside tea house

A river boat on its way to Buddha Hall

A river boat on its way to Buddha Hall

The ancient Yuanjin Temple Pagoda dates back to 1341

The ancient Yuanjin Temple Pagoda dates back to 1341

Ancient bridges connect networks of residential areas

Ancient bridges connect networks of residential areas

These stalls offer some of the best Zongzi in town

These stalls offer some of the best Zongzi in town

Small waterside cafés are a great place to soak up the peaceful surroundings

Small waterside cafés are a great place to soak up the peaceful surroundings

New commercial areas attract visitors with international cuisine

New commercial areas attract visitors with international cuisine

Colourful street art adorns the wall of this local bar

Colourful street art adorns the wall of this local bar

Bamboo is a common material for making traditional baskets and fans

Bamboo is a common material for making traditional baskets and fans

A canal boat navigates through the lantern-laden waterways of Zhujiajiao

A canal boat navigates through the lantern-laden waterways of Zhujiajiao

Locals enjoy some steamed baozi (filled Chinese buns)

Locals enjoy some steamed baozi (filled Chinese buns)

One of many mystical waterways, neighboured by local restaurants

One of many mystical waterways, neighboured by local restaurants

A typical restaurant offering local dishes such as stinky tofu

A typical restaurant offering local dishes such as stinky tofu